The Conquest of the Hickey

Posted in Delta Dampening, News

From Graphic Arts Monthly – July 1996

For years, the number on enemy of printers the hickey, has been considered an inescapable, if unfortunate part of printing. This scourge of the pressroom has dodged whole crews of press operators, defied hickey picker rollers and wreaked havoc on quality and productivity. But to day, printers like Graphics Illustrated have discovered a technology designed to conquer this long-standing foe.

The second largest sheetfed printer in South Florida, Graphic Illustrated is $20 million company providing commercial printed materials for Fortune 500 customers. Since its founding in 1979, adaptability has been key in the company’s continued growth, leading it over the years into multicolor printing and, more recently, DocuTech and disk replication. But until last year, even as the company embraced new technologies, the old problem of hickeys remained.

The existence of even on hickey in a job represented a concern for Graphics Illustrated. According to Press Manager Robert Scott, “With our customers, one hickey is considered an unacceptable defect.”

When hickeys began to stand in the way of meeting high-end customer requirements in a productive manner, the company knew it had to find a way to eliminate them.

Explains Scott, “Recently, a prominent greeting card customer gave us the parameter of printing hickey-free. Yet all the methods we had explored until then (using hickey picker rollers, purchasing better paper stock, trying low-tack inks) were like putting a band-aid on the problem. “We still had to stop the press regularly to remove hickeys, which drained productivity and caused excessive waste.”

In searching for a solution, the company read about a system called the Epic Delta Print Quality System, manufactured Epic Products. Employing a continuous dampening technology that sweeps away the particles that cause hickeys during printing, the Epic Delta System has provided 99.93% hickey-free performance in printing environments around the world, according to the company.

“This was the type of performance we were looking for,” says Scott. “But what sold us was the cost survey worksheet Epic gave us. The worksheet asked us about our shifts per day, average hickey stops per shift, average paper costs, and more. It showed that the Epic Delta System would pay for itself in less than a year.”

The system was installed on all six units of Graphics Illustrated’s six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster in November 1995. Operators quickly became proficient in the use of the system by attending Epic’s Technical Training Center in Arlington, Texas.

Company President Roger Butler reports that the new technology has solved the hickey problem. Scott agrees, “We haven’t had one hickey problem since the system was installed. We haven’t had to rerun even one job. We now know that we don’t have to live with hickeys anymore.”

Operators spend far less time looking for samples to pull off the press. “Anything we pull is likely to be good,” Scott attests. The Epic Delta System has tremendously reduced waste, interruptions to printing runs, and product inspection times. Butler adds, “The system maintains good color and fidelity through each print run.”

As the company plans for the future, Butler says, it is striving to be a “total solutions” company. Delta technology will be an important part of the picture, he notes, as the company prepares to add another Epic Delta Print Quality System on its five-color Speedmaster in 1996.

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